HC Deb 04 December 1984 vol 69 cc161-2
9. Mr. Fisher

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the national average total of expenditure on capitation for pupils aged five to 11 years.

Mr. Dunn

There are considerable variations in the items authorities require schools to pay for out of capitation, and no central record is kept of capitation levels nationally. However, most include an allowance for books and equipment and, in 1982–83, authorities in England spent an average of £21 for each primary aged pupil on books and equipment.

Mr. Fisher

Does the Minister appreciate that that works out at only just over 10p per pupil per school day? Does he think that that is a sufficient sum with which to educate our children? Will he now introduce a national review of capitation and bring forward serious proposals to allow children to be properly educated?

Mr. Dunn

I fully accept that there is concern about the provision of books in schools, and we have provided for that. I suggest to the hon. Member that he might care to advise his own local authority to consider other ways of getting better results for its money, including the benefits of privatisation of some services.

Mr. Pawsey

Does my hon. Friend agree that there is scope for devolving more financial responsibility to individual schools? Will he give us his views on that point?

Mr. Dunn

I am pleased to tell my hon. Friend that this is one of the very issues that we considered in our Green Paper on parental influence at school. We are studying responses to that document. I understand that the Audit Commission is likely to have things to say about the need to increase delegation to schools in its forthcoming reports on non-teaching costs in secondary schools. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has agreed with the local authority associations that they should discuss that report when it becomes available.

Mr. Bruce

Will the Minister recognise, as he has acknowledged in his answer, that the variation in the capitation contribution is often made up by parents, and that that is also to a widely varying degree? Will he take account of that and recognise that a VAT imposition on books would further aggravate the position?

Mr. Dunn

The Government have consistently maintained the view that they welcome the generosity with which many parents demonstrate their support for their children's schools, so long as that support is given on a genuinely voluntary basis. VAT is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mr. Hayes

Since 33 per cent. of school books are bought by parents, does my hon. Friend agree that the imposition of VAT on books would have a disastrous effect on capitation?

Mr. Dunn

I have already given an answer on that very question.